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Iraqi Kurdistan Blames Baghdad, Washington for Turkish Incursion


The government of Iraq's Kurdistan region has blamed Baghdad and Washington for failing to stop Turkish military actions in northern Iraq. The Turkish incursion has cost dozens of lives and sparked concerns the conflict may destabilize the largely peaceful region. Daniel Schearf reports from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Iraqi Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told journalists it is the responsibility of the Iraqi federal government and the United States to stop the Turkish actions.

But he said the government in Baghdad was acting weak and feeble, and that Washington's assurances from the beginning that Turkish actions would be limited have proven false.

He says they expected the Turkish operations would end by the New Year, but now it is almost March and the operations continue.

Prime Minister Barzani said Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani sent an urgent letter to President Bush asking him to resolve the situation.

Turkey sent tanks and hundreds, perhaps thousands of soldiers across the border into Iraq Thursday to root out Kurdish rebels from the PKK, the Kurdistan Worker's Party.

The PKK has been fighting Turkish forces since 1984 to establish an autonomous region in southeast Turkey, using bases in Iraqi Kurdistan as a safe haven from which to launch their attacks.

But, Mr. Barzani says the increasingly bloody Turkish campaign has destroyed civilian infrastructure, demonstrating that Turkish forces are not just targeting the PKK, but also Kurdistan itself.

In a sign of growing tensions with the Turkish military, he confirmed reports that Kurdish elite security, called the Peshemerga, last week forced one group of Turkish soldiers to return to their base inside Iraq.

He says it was very irresponsible for the Turkish forces to try to leave the base, especially since they know they cannot move from there without permission.

Iraqi authorities have for some years allowed the Turkish military to operate three bases just inside Iraq in order to better defend themselves from the PKK. Kurdish soldiers in the past have even joined with the Turks to fight the Kurdish rebels. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by many countries, including the United States.

Iraqi officials say the fighting has been too costly in lives and infrastructure and that diplomacy is now the only solution.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is urging Turkey to end the operation quickly, and says it will take more than just military action to resolve the conflict.

The Turkish military says it has lost 15 soldiers and one helicopter in the three days of fighting, but has killed more than 100 PKK rebels.

The PKK disputes those figures and say it has only lost two fighters, but killed nearly 50 Turkish troops.

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